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From "Contreras, Jorge" <Jorge.Contre...@wilmerhale.com>
Subject RE: IETF IP Contribution Policy
Date Thu, 18 Jan 2007 19:54:36 GMT
To clarify:  RFC 3978 is NOT a draft. It was adopted as the IETF's policy on contributions
in March 2005 after a lengthy and open discussion process.  Discussions are ongoing within
the IETF IPR-WG regarding possible changes to RFC 3978, but the language noted by Larry is
not a proposal for new language -- it is the current language.

Jorge Contreras (legal counsel to IETF)

-----Original Message-----
From: Lawrence Rosen [mailto:lrosen@rosenlaw.com]
Sent: Thursday, January 18, 2007 1:42 PM
To: lrosen@rosenlaw.com
Cc: 'Legal Discuss'; license-discuss@opensource.org; ipr-wg@ietf.org
Subject: IETF IP Contribution Policy

Open Letter Regarding IETF IP Contribution Policy

(Feel free to copy. My apologies in advance for cross-posting)



I want to let you know about the latest proposal from the IETF IPR Working Group regarding
rights in contributions made to IETF for Internet standards. See www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc3978.txt.


IETF, the most democratic and open of standards organizations, is proposing a contribution
policy that, simply put, may result in standards that are not truly open for implementation
and use in open source software. This draft policy offers, in section 3.3(a)(E), generous
copyright licenses for contributions, but it expressly omits any patent licenses: 


... (it also being understood that the licenses granted under this paragraph (E) shall not
be deemed to grant any right under any patent, patent application or other similar intellectual
property right disclosed by the Contributor under [RFC3979]).

The draft policy contains this language because, as one participant said on the IPR WG discussion
list, it should be up to each individual IETF Working Group to decide whether a standard should
be adopted even though a contributor's necessary patent claims may not be freely available
to actually practice the standard. This is worse in some respects than the "reasonable and
non-discriminatory" policies that the open source community has been fighting against in other
standards organizations. This new policy does not even promise RAND, much less FREE, patent
licenses. This contribution policy may actually result in standards that can't even be implemented
at a reasonable price by proprietary software companies, let alone by open source projects!


The IETF is a public trust, and the intellectual property rights in IETF contributions are
being given to a 501(c)(3) public benefit organization for release as Internet standards.
I do not believe that IETF working groups should ever promulgate private standards for the
financial benefit of private patent owners, no matter how wonderful the technology.  


As I said above, IETF is a democratic and open organization. Many engineers and others in
the open source community already participate in IETF working groups and contribute to this
essential commons of open standards for the Internet. I encourage every IETF contributor to
read the proposed IETF policy and to express your own opinion about whether it should be adopted
in its current form.


The co-chair of the IETF IPR WG, Harald Alvestrand, suggested that I take this issue to an
open list. He also invites anyone who wants to participate in this debate and to vote on the
proposal to join the discussion group. ( https://www1.ietf.org/mailman/listinfo/ipr-wg)  


/Larry Rosen


Lawrence Rosen

Rosenlaw & Einschlag, a technology law firm ( www.rosenlaw.com)

Stanford University, Lecturer in Law

3001 King Ranch Road, Ukiah, CA 95482

707-485-1242 * cell: 707-478-8932 * fax: 707-485-1243

Skype: LawrenceRosen

Author of "Open Source Licensing: Software Freedom and 

                Intellectual Property Law" (Prentice Hall 2004)


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